Season of Creation reflection: Br Guy Consolmagno SJ
In his autobiography, St. Ignatius of Loyola said that he received the greatest consolation “from gazing at the sky and stars,” which he did “often and for quite a long time.”
Anyone with eyes can see the stars for themselves and feel immersed in their greatness. When we look at them often we begin to recognize their patterns, like old friends. By learning the traditional names of stars and constellations we are connected to our human heritage: Babylonian and Greek and Islamic, Indian and Chinese, African and Indigenous. Thus we honor and learn from our ancestors, who gazed at the same stars we do.
The eyes of science add depth to that immersion. Now we can place them in time and space, beyond the image of an overhead dome of bright dots to the reality of other suns shining on us from immense distances. Our telescopes reveal new beauties: galaxies and nebulae, moons and rings, always there but hidden from our sight until we used our God-given ingenuity to discern them. Indeed, we can appreciate these things even when we cannot see them personally ourselves.
And this is how we experience God. Moving out into the dark we notice a presence. With experience we learn to recognize that presence, again and again. From those gone before us we discover how God’s presence has shaped our history. And with study we discern ever more deeply just how immense God is: a love older than the oldest star, wider than the furthest galaxy.
No wonder Ignatius found God in his nighttime gaze.
Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ is the Director of the Vatican Observatory and President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation. A native of Detroit Michigan, he is a popular international speaker and has authored numerous books, including Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist and God’s Mechanics: How Scientists and Engineers Make Sense of Religion.